Almost half of Italians polled in survey want to leave EU

Almost half of all Italians would vote to leave the EU if given the opportunity, according to a poll published on Monday.

Almost half of Italians polled in survey want to leave EU
According to a poll published on Monday, more than half of all Italians would vote to leave the EU if given the chance. Photo: Bob/Flickr

The data come from UK pollsters Ipsos MORI and reveal that anti-EU sentiment in Italy is far higher than in European neighbours Spain, Sweden, France, Germany, Belgium Hungry and Poland.

In the economic powerhouse of Germany, just 34 percent of people would vote to leave – compared to 41 percent in France, 39 percent in Sweden and 26 percent in Spain

In order to arrive at those figures, between 500 and 1,000 people, aged 16 to 64 in each country, were polled between March and April.

In addition to nearly half of all respondents wanting to leave the EU, 58 percent of all Italians would like to see their country hold a referendum on the issue.

As public support for the EU has waned amid financial chaos in Greece and the face of the greatest migration crisis since the Second World War, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has remained a staunch defender of the institution.

Renzi has made repeated calls for greater European cooperation in tackling the migrant crisis and has urged Britons to vote to remain in the EU on June 23rd.

But despite Renzi's stance, the data reflects a growing wave of euro-skepticism in Italy.

“I'm glad Britain is getting to vote, and we should have a referendum here too,” Fabio, a bar owner in northern Rome, told The Local.

“The worst thing we ever did was join the euro – it's made life so much more expensive and normal Italians poorer; so many small businesses have been forced to close. The only winners seem to be the corporates and politicians.”

This has been reflected in the meteoric rise of the Five Star Movement (M5S) as a political force over the last five years.

M5S is now the second most-supported political party in Italy and has in the past promised to  take Italy out of the eurozone should it get into power.

The survey results suggest a potential 'Brexit' could lead to a 'domino effect' across the EU.

“[Europeans] tend to feel there is likely to be a ripple effect following the UK vote,” Bobby Duffy, managing director of the Ipsos MORI research institute, said.

But Duffy warned that even if the UK votes to remain, the anti-EU feeling among Italians could soon present Brussels with a new headache.

“The Italians in particular hope to have their own opportunity to go to the polls on their EU membership – which lends a sense that even if the British vote sticks with the status quo in June, it will not be the end of the EU’s challenges,” Duffy added.

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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.